Café culture is celebrated on a grand scale in the historic
Polish city of Kraków – the opportunity to relax with a cup of strong black
coffee, or kawa, is never far away.
Louche hangout of choice among the cognoscenti of the Kazimierz district, Singer
Café is filled with old Singer sewing machines which double as tables. By day,
it’s an atmospheric, low-key place. By night, they turn up the music and the
place hums until dawn to an energetic mix of gypsy, Jewishstyle klezmer and
other ethnic music (00 48 12 292 0622; ul Estery 20; espresso £1.20).
Hidden away on a corner in the Old Town behind St John’s
Church, tiny Café Camelot feels like a time-warp. Its snug, low-arched rooms
are cluttered with candlelit tables and offbeat folklore figurines. The place
has a colourful history: it was a brothel in the early 20th century, popular
with local artists. Be sure to try the delicious szarlotka – Polish apple cake
– and sweet cherry wine (00 48 12 421 01 23; ul Św Tomasza 17; espresso £1.50;
Established in 1895, Jama Michalika in the Old
Town is famous as the birthplace of Modernist visual arts movement Młoda Polska
(Young Poland) – the café was a magnet for writers, painters and other young
creatives between 1890 and 1918. The grand Art Nouveau interior and art works
retain a historic charm, and its kawa z alkoholem (coffees with alcohol) are
delicious on a nippy afternoon (ul Floriańska 45; kawa Hennessy £3).
Bona, a pleasant combination of café
and bookshop with its bookshelves sandwiched between the interior and the
outdoor seating, lies just a few hundred yards from Wawel Castle. Sip a coffee
with a view of the Church of SS Peter & Paul and the medieval square in
front of it (ul Kanonicza 11; coffee from £1.20).
You could easily spend an entire afternoon browsing through Massolit Books & Café, the city’s best
English-language bookstore-cum-café, which sells secondhand books in Polish and
English. Its library-like interior makes it an ideal spot for slowing down and
escaping for a few hours – grab a homemade brownie and a latte, find a corner
and enjoy one of the city’s most intellectual hangouts (ul Felicjanek 4; coffee
Many cafés in the Kazimierz district take their cue from the
area’s Jewish roots, but Cheder
Café aims to both entertain and educate. Named after a traditional Hebrew
school, the café offers access to a decent library in Polish and English,
regular readings and film screenings, as well as real Israeli coffee, brewed in
a Turkish copper pot with cinnamon and cardamom (ul Józefa 36; Israeli coffee
The smell of fresh-brewed Java and the sounds of jazz music entice you into
Café Rękawka, across the river Vistula from Kazimierz in the newer Podgórze
district. It’s a funny mismatch of burlap coffee bags, lace curtains and leafy
plants, creating the perfect atmosphere to sink into a comfy chair (00 48 12
296 2002; ul Kazimierza Brodzińskiego; coffee from £1).
The old Prowincja café is gone, but nextdoor New Prowincja has an arty feel, with
low ceilings, birds in birdcages and an upstairs gallery space. People come
from all over town for its Spanish-style hot chocolate, which is so thick and
rich, it can be eaten with a spoon. And don’t leave without trying the lemon meringue
cake (ul Bracka 3-5; hot chocolate £1.50, lemon meringue cake £1.70).
When it’s chilly outside, grab a seat in Café Bunkier with a mug of coffee. This local
favourite, attached to the contemporary art gallery, Bunkier Sztuki, is a
covered terrace resembling an enormous greenhouse. Situated beside the Planty
park, which encircles Kraków’s Old Town, it makes the perfect peoplewatching
spot (Plac Szczepański 3a; coffee from £1.50, cake from £1.50).
Where to stay
The Hotel Pod Wawelem, at the foot
of Wawel Royal Castle, has a crisp and up-to-date feel. The 91 rooms and
apartments are minimally styled, with art on the walls and river or castle
views (from £40; Plac Na Groblach 22).
The Grand Hotel is exactly
that – a palace built in the 19th century and now one of the city’s finest
hotels. Its 56 rooms feature antique furnishings, fine artwork and tapestries,
and fantastic high ceilings (from £80; ul Sławkowska 5–7).
Stary is housed in an 18th-century Old Town residence that exudes opulent
charm, with natural fabrics, Italian marble bathroom surfaces, and silk and
Oriental carpets throughout (from £180; Szczepańska 5).
John Paul II International airport, almost seven miles west of Kraków’s
centre, is served by easyJet, Jet2 and Ryanair
from Belfast, Birmingham, Bristol, East Midlands, Edinburgh, Gatwick, Leeds
Bradford, Liverpool, Newcastle and Stansted (from £70). An express train links the airport with
the main Kraków Główny station on the outskirts of the Old Town in 20 minutes
(singles £3). Bus and taxi details can also be found on the airport website.
Most of Kraków’s centre is within a four-square-mile area, which makes walking
your best bet.
The article 'Mini guide to Krakow’s cafes' was published in partnership with Lonely Planet Traveller.